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A trip to Bilston

Last Saturday I drove up to Wolverhampton to teach an introductory workhop at Bilston Craft Gallery.

The workshop coincided with the final week of Black Sheep – the darker side of felt, a touring exhibition organized by the National Centre for Craft & Design (NCCD) and currently shown in Bilston’s beautiful gallery space.

The invitation to teach here was one I could not pass by: not having seen the exhibition in person yet and having some work in it myself, this was an excellent opportunity to kill a couple of birds with one stone.

After arrival and setting up the workshop space, the gallery was openened especially for me (thank you Ruth!) and I spent a glorious 45 minutes wandering around by myself before rushing back upstairs to welcome the first students.

It’s not often you get the chance to wander through three rooms full of work by artists you admire. And ok, I admit it… I did touch some of the work!

Black Sheep at BilstonOverview of Bilston’s beautiful exhibition space, from the back room

Although impressed with the overal aim & impact of this show, for me the stand out work in this exhibition is by Stephanie Metz, Maria Friese and Marjolein Dallinga.

Their work is totally different in technique and style, but what they have in common is their impact (monumental in size and/or stature) and their modern interpretation of this ancient craft. I was particularly impressed with Californian artist Stephanie Metz’ incredibly ‘tight’ anatomically inspired needle felt. Some of her pieces are reminiscent of small creatures about to un-curl themselves. I’m not the biggest fan of needle felting, but Stephanie manages to elevate this craft into modern sculptures which, from a distance, look like stone carvings.

Monumental-work-by-Maria-FrieseDetail of this monumental wall piece by French artist Maria Friese, the coloured fibers are plant-dyed by the artist. Generally her work is inspired by Ernst Haeckel’s 1974 publication Art Forms in Nature

Marjolein-Dallinga Dutch artist Marjolein Dallinga’s work is inspired by natural forms also. This installation is based on huge growths of fungi found in the woods of Canada, where she currently lives.

Stephanie-MetzNot my best photo; it doesn’t really do justice to Stephanie Metz’ incredibly fine needle felted sculptures.

I was lucky enough to be able to take my students on a whistle stop tour of the gallery again later in the day, as part of the workshop. The educational and ‘touch’ section of the exhibit (put together by NCCD’s Laura Mabutt) was a wonderful resource to have on hand and very inspiring for the students, who were all completely new to feltmaking. In the short time available these ladies all managed to make a bangle and a pod, so well done and thanks for having me Bilston!

workshop-participants-Intro-to-feltmaking-Bilston-Craft-GalleryWorkshop participants who had never felted before…

If you’re interested in feltmaking, I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough.

Visit the exhibition blog for news of upcoming venues.

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